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Businesses may have to fund SMCC campus at BNAS

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Businesses may have to fund SMCC campus at BNAS

BRUNSWICK — The committee that decides which bills are considered by the state Legislature has rejected a $4 million measure that would have funded start-up costs for the Advanced Technology Campus at Brunswick Naval Air Station. 

However, Sen. Stan Gerzofsky, D-Brunswick, the bill's would-be sponsor, has submitted an alternate proposal that would effectively generate start-up funds from businesses moving onto the redeveloped base.

The new measure, which Gerzofsky described as "creative" and "convoluted," could be attached to the law governing the Midcoast Regional Redevelopment Authority, the agency overseeing BNAS transition to civilian use.

Gerzofsky said the plan was created from suggestions from Gov. John Baldacci's office and leaders in the state House and Senate. He said the proposal was necessary because of the state's revenue shortfalls and corresponding curtailment orders on education spending.

"It creates a funding mechanism where airport businesses coming onto the base contribute, and possibly the (federal government)," Gerzofsky said. "The money won't come out of the general fund. It will be from businesses who will benefit from the state investing in the campus."

The campus, a joint venture between Southern Maine Community College and the University of Maine, is supported by leaders in Augusta and the redevelopment authority. MRRA believes the Advanced Technology Campus is vital for luring businesses to the base, because the school will adjust its curriculum to meet the needs of companies seeking a trained workforce. 

The $4 million in start-up costs would be combined with another $4.75 million bond included in Gov. John Baldacci's proposed $150 million spending package. The latter, dubbed the Responsible Reinvestment Plan, is the governor's version of the federal stimulus package. Voters will be asked to ratify the package in June 2010.

Despite the support from Augusta leadership, Gerzofsky said the request for the campus came at a difficult time. 

"There was no way the (Legislative Council) could put a bill in asking for $4 million when (Baldacci) is already asking the community college system to cut $2 million from its current budget," Gerzofsky said. "But the council knows the importance of base closure and the (campus)."

"The Legislature's hands are tied," he added. "This just gives us some wiggle room."

The new proposal will be included in a bill that will add some language to the statutes governing MRRA. The Legislature's Business Research and Economic Development Committee will likely review the measure before it goes to the House and Senate. 

Gerzofsky said he plans to ask all Mid-Coast legislators to sign on as co-sponsors. 

"I feel confident that we'll be able to get it done," he said. 

Steve Mistler can be reached at 373-9060 ext. 123 or smistler@theforecaster.net

 

 

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